Saturday, February 11, 2006

Why Art?

Why do I do art? When I was young I wanted to be a vet. I loved, still love, animals so much and felt such a rapport with them. Alas, my concentration wasn’t there for memorizing all the formulas and facts to get through the science class. Of course, then I didn’t realize I was a visual learner. That took years.

When I went to college I thought I had to have a career decision right away, so I thought, well, I’m good wit I went into early childhood education. My concentration was Montessori, which is where I started myself in the education system. I went to a very peaceful women’s college in Indiana. But I became dissatisfied with program. Not wanting to give up being an EC teacher, I transferred to another school. Still I was dissatisfied, but not with the program this time. I just knew that was not who I was in the end. In the meantime I took a drawing class with a graduate student who encouraged me to “just let go.” What a concept. I took to it like a drowning sailor.

Still, I had to graduate and fast because money was running out, or going out, so I chose Office Administration. Well, I might have just cut off my right arm. In desperation I spoke to my drawing teacher and she said, “You could get run over by a truck tomorrow, what are you going to do today?” That helped. I took what I had left of my education classes, combined it with art and, with the help of a few loans and regular cashier’s job, got a degree in teaching art.

Learning to teach art was a great way to have an excuse to learn many art materials, from ceramics to sculpture, drawing to painting. But my love for fiber was drawn out from Barbara Lewis, the weaving teacher at JMU. She taught me the basics of silk painting that started me on a road of exploration that I am still on today.

Upon graduation, I taught for a year, then began working in an office and teaching part time in an art center. I also started teaching Surface Design in the evenings, which gave me more opportunities to play with fiber and see the products available out there. During this time, I met the most important person in my life and married him. Soon afterwards, we bought a house in France. We began a very nomadic life of going back and forth to the States every three months. Obviously I had no way to hold down a “real” job, so I turned to my art, which in truth I had only been doing part time till then.

Finding myself in a different culture, this was often my sanity. I could sit down and lose myself in a design or painting. It gave me a sense of self and security. Then I was given the opportunity to have a show in a local gallery, but I needed thirty pieces! That really set me off. I produced those paintings non-stop, working in a method of applying thickened dyes to raw silk, painting the images, and then quilting them.

I decided to try and be a bit more commercial and began creating one-of-a-kind shawls for retail, which I sold in museums and in New York City. Hanging a show in a dance center, I met Deborah Riley and she invited me to collaborate with her to create scenery for her dance piece “Old Cronies.” That was a whole other challenge because suddenly I was dealing with size and distance. It was very exciting to see her and her dance troupe bring the paintings to life. I felt very lucky to work with her and again created cloth for another piece for the Kennedy Center.

Dimension suddenly changed when I decided to pose myself the challenge of creating my storyboxes. It began as a need to find something that people could fit into apartments and also a search for a unique way to frame. Let me step back a minute and say that my work has always been about telling a story, whether it is from my dreams, or stories I have read, or experiencing nature. I build up my stories from research of symbols of many cultures and the beliefs they have that give meaning to them. Gardens of Eden is a series of storiesabout the garden and the four elements, with a bit of magic added in. It was in “Garden’s” that I began exploring hand-embroidery as embellishment. This idea I carried through to Women in Transformation, or is it that I was carried off myself? I spent over three hundred hours on each “Woman” before I felt they were “done.”

After finishing Women in Transformation, our lives took another turn. We moved to Holland and settled into a less nomadic lifestyle. I began drawing nudes and portraits in pencil. I had already starting drawing more for my last series of paintings in order to discover more about shadow. Now I couldn’t put the pencil down. The pencil led to drawing in pastel, then pastel and pencil, and then a bit of watercolor. I still worked on my textiles, only a bit slower. Then, this last summer I obtained studio space. At last I could get back to doing larger pieces! Since then, I have been exploring batik again. Having only touched on it before I feel I am now really beginning to understand it. It is a bit freer than working with the thickened dye, at least in the way I was working. I am combining my love of drawing the figure and nature into a new series of paintings or art quilts that will use the first batik painting as a “seed”, then, as they grow, paint, printing, and other methods of creating images on fabric that I have been wanting to play with.

In the meantime, I will continue drawing in pencil and other materials and will begin exploring painting in the Realist method. The creative path is a winding one and I don’t know where it will lead me, but I am truly enjoying the journey and sharing it with you!

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